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Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

July 5th marks the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the modern bikini. Though mosaics and wall paintings reveal that women wore two-piece costumes in Roman times around 300 A.D., and as far back as 1600 B.C. in Minoa, it is Louis Reard who is considered the father of the modern bikini.

The French engineer introduced his “bikini” on July 5, 1946. He named it after the atomic test of the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands because he expected it would generate a burst of excitement equal to the atomic test. Little did he know bikinis would play a starring role in many movies of the Boomer Generation. Many are part of the classic moments of film from the era. Here are just a few:

Brigitte Bardo: The Girl in the Bikini (1952); And God Created Woman (1956); et al
When the bikini was introduced in 1946, it did not receive a warm welcome in the fashion world, especially in the United States. Some say it was the image of Brigitte Bardo wearing bikinis in various movies through the 1950s and ’60s that changed a few minds. Although the actress took on many types of roles that showcased her acting range, she was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before there were SI swimsuit issues. Many boomer boys spied their first bikini as worn by Brigitte Bardo in movie magazines borrowed from their fathers’ collections.

Ursula Andress: Dr. No (1962)
When James Bond (Sean Connery) sees Ursula Andress rise from the ocean in a white bikini with a diving knife strapped to her hip, even he had to pause. The scene became so iconic that it has been repeated and parodied ever since, including Halle Berry’s reinterpretation of the scene, rising out of the ocean in an orange bikini in Die Another Day (2002).

Annette Funicello: Beach Party (1963); Bikini Beach (1964); How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965); et al
Beach movies hit the boomer scene from 1963 to 1968. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, previously of Mouseketeer fame, were recruited to play a teenage version of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies … on the beach. Annette Funicello’s bikini was a two piece in name only. It was stipulated by contract with Walt Disney that she not be allowed to show her belly button, so some would say her swimwear in the movies was downright matronly. The fun thing for boomers, though, was there were no such stipulations on the other girls on the beach.

Raquel Welch: One Million Years B.C. (1967)
Technically, beauty queen Raquel Welch isn’t wearing swimwear in this movie. Rather, it was a furry animal skin two-piece that became so iconic that the still publicity shot for the movie became a best-selling poster. Mister Boomer has to admit, he was among the boys who taped the poster to his wall. The role was originally offered to Ursula Andress, but by then her salary requirements were too much for the producers.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella (1968)
Directed by  Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda’s husband at the time, Barbarella was a campy movie trip to outer space fantasyland via hallucinogenic imagery, so naturally, bikinis would would have to play a part. Mister Boomer first heard about the movie when a neighbor returning from his stint in Vietnam talked about it. It was years later when Mister B first saw the film, but Brother Boomer saw it much sooner.

Shocking to many in its day, the bikini now is commonplace poolside and on beaches around the world. It has even been named the official athletic wear for women’s professional beach volleyball. Monsieur Reard used a grand total of 30 square inches of fabric for his original creation, while today’s versions run the gamut from modernly modest to barely there. Many movies featured memorable bikini-clad women throughout the boomer years. What is your favorite bikini movie moment, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Pop Culture History,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

Boomers Are Still Ironing Out the Details

In a recent discussion among millennials and boomers that Mister Boomer was privy to, the subject of ironing came up. Mister B was surprised to hear that virtually all of those present said they had to at least occasionally iron clothing. Some, both men and women, said they did so weekly, while one professed to ironing every day! By contrast, Mister B avoids ironing like the plague. He refuses to buy anything that might need ironing, though many things still do. And what’s with that? Like robot maids and flying cars, we were promised that our clothes would never need ironing again!

The origins of ironing — pressing material with a hot implement in order to straighten and smooth fabric — are unknown. Yet there is evidence of the Chinese smoothing fabric by pressing with a metal basket filled with hot coals at least 1,000 years ago, and it may very well have happened sooner.

It was the late Middle Ages before people fashioned metal implements designed to smooth fabric. Then in 18th and 19th century England and Europe, glass “smoothers” were popular. These tools resembled hand stamps more than the irons that appeared in the 19th century. By the 1800s, irons were shaped implements that were heated on a stove for the express purpose of smoothing fabric. It was a hugely laborious task. Wealthy patrons could afford a dedicated stove and multiple irons, so one could heat while another cooled. Those less fortunate were forced to do without or reheat one implement over and over again. It has been noted that in Victorian households, laundry was a two-day affair; one of those days was reserved for ironing.

The first iron powered by electricity was patented by Henry Seely in 1882 in New York City. However, almost no one except the very wealthy or privileged had electricity, so it remained a novelty. It wasn’t until 1889 that a consumer-based electric iron was available. With it came the promise of relief of the drudgery of ironing that had been practiced centuries earlier.

Flash forward to the twentieth century, when the idea of ironing moved to finding fabrics that either needed less ironing, or none at all. Rayon, a cellulose-acetate product, appeared in 1924. In 1931 the DuPont Company invented nylon. It was the first fabric completely synthesized from petrochemicals. Nylon stockings arrived in 1939, and they were an immediate fashion hit with women in North America and Europe. At the beginning ofd the War, cotton was king with the US military, but nylon stockings production was interrupted as the military began to find uses for nylon. By the end of the War, manufactured fabrics comprised 15% of all fiber used by the military. A good portion of it was nylon, which was first used to replace silk for parachutes, then for tents, coats and other fabric needs.

After the War, nylon stockings production resumed, and nylon was used for auto upholstery and carpeting in the earliest boomer days. There was still no sign of the iron-free future that was predicted, until the 1950s, when new fibers became available. As manufacturers blended cotton with acrylics, the first articles of clothing advertised as “wash and wear” appeared in 1952. Development on blending cotton with synthetics continued through the 1960s and into the ’70s, giving rise to “permanent press” and “wrinkle-resistant fabrics” that could stand less ironing. This timeline coincided with the expansion of electric home dryers, which were available since the 1920s, but after the War is when they caught on with boomer families who could now afford them, and wanted the convenience. Thus started the foray into a future that promised less ironing.

Mid-century modern houses built in the 1950s and ’60s often had built-in ironing boards that, since ironing wouldn’t be needed as often, were hidden inside a cabinet or recessed into the wall. There was none of that in the Mister Boomer household. Mister B remembers that clothing literally went through the wringer in his house, so there was little doubt the items would need ironing. The circular washing machine in Mister B’s basement had a double-roller attachment above the washing drum. Mister B’s mom would pull pieces of the laundry from the drum and thread them between the rollers. His mom turned a crank with a wooden handle alongside the rollers and the laundry piece made its way through, extracting excess water that remained after the spin cycle. The extracted water was funneled down a chute to the concrete basement floor, where it slid into a drain. Then the items — clothing, sheets, towels or what have you — were clipped to a clothesline to dry. In the coldest winter months, laundry dried in the basement. The other seasons, it was hung outside. When dry, the clothing was ready to be ironed. His mother labored for hours, ironing shirts, pants, sheets and pillow cases on the folding ironing board in the living room. The board was kept in his mom’s closet when not in use, but in a small house with limited electrical outlets, it had to be brought out near the front door in the living room so the iron could be plugged in an available outlet and still reach the board.

Somewhere along the way Mister Boomer’s mother acquired a mangle, which was an ironing device popular in the 1950s and ’60s. Mister B was fascinated with the machine. It was a stand-alone metal contraption, with its own cover. When the cover was lifted, it revealed a large, fabric-covered roller approximately three feet long and a curved metal plate below it. The machine’s metal plate was electrically heated so clothing could be fed in between the plate and the roller, which pressed the garment as it moved through. Somewhere in the mid-60s, the machine disappeared from Mister Boomer’s basement. Perhaps it reached the end of its useful life and was discarded; Mister B does not know its fate. That left his mom to do all of the ironing by hand once again. Make no mistake about it, ironing was a woman’s job at that time. Dads were not yet “enlightened” enough to take on part of the household chores other than those on the outside of the house.

That brings us back to today, when advances in technology have delivered “no-iron” fabrics that everyone knows will eventually need a “touch-up.” So, the hand-held electric iron continues to be a necessary part of every household. Do you think once Google perfects the self-driving car that they might want to take on laundry that irons itself?

Do you have fun memories of ironing or watching your mom iron, boomers, or are they ironing nightmares? Have you reduced or nearly eliminated ironing from your lives or are we all doomed to a future tied to ironing boards?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History,Technology and have Comment (1)

Boomers Helped to Shape the Record Industry — Literally

In the earliest days of recordings, a single song was cut into a wax cylinder. When the flat gramophone record replaced the cylinder, more physical space was available for more recordings, and the 12-inch, 78-rpm record became the standard distribution format. The shellac record disc became the material of choice in 1910, and by the 1920s, 78 rpm recording sales had reached their zenith. The popularity of recordings spawned the birth of a variety of record companies. Among the competitors were RCA Victor and Columbia Phonograph Company. The crash of 1929 dashed record sales, then World War II followed. Multiple companies had been researching new formats for records in the hope of introducing new standards. In the 1930s, RCA Victor worked on the assumption that a record could be just one song that would be less than three minutes long. The war interrupted their research.

After the war RCA’s competitor, Columbia, was researching methods of introducing higher quality recordings with less hiss and pop. Consequently, they developed the 12-inch, 33 1/3 long-playing (LP) record with classical music in mind. Since they could pack more grooves on the record, the speed could be reduced from 78 to 33 1/3 while gaining sound fidelity in the process. Meanwhile, RCA came up with a smaller, 7-inch record that would spin at 45 rpms. Both companies used the latest material — vinylite — to press their recordings, and developed players that positioned the phonograph needle at a shallower depth than what was required with earlier devices. These innovations enabled both to compact smaller grooves together on the discs to produce higher fidelity records than had been previously available. RCA introduced their 45 rpm records in 1947, but it would be a marketing blitz of 1949 that brought 45 rpm records into the consumer market in a big way. By the end of the decade, most record companies made turntables that would play either speed, and released records in both formats. Broadway show tunes, classical music and movie soundtracks were popular in LPs and sets of LPs could be sold together to cover the longer play time needed for the material. Popular music that was only available on LP could get quite expensive, but the 45 — a single — was a way of making songs available to a wider audience, especially the growing youth market, at prices they could afford. By 1958 the 78 rpm record was phased out entirely.

So, boomers, we see that the technology that was developed during and after the war coincided with a burgeoning youth market in the 1950s, which also collided with the dawn of rock ‘n roll and popularization of the transistor radio; the perfect storm had been created for Baby Boomers to embrace their own music. The 45 rpm was also the perfect size for new jukeboxes that began to appear in the 1940s and ’50s, enabling boomers to play the songs of their choosing one at a time, whether they were in a malt shop, record store or restaurant.

Mister Boomer’s mother grew up with what she generically called a “Victrola,” on which Mister B’s grandmother played 78 rpm records. Mister Boomer’s family, however, did not own a record player in the 1950s. There was a radio on the kitchen counter, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the family got a portable box-style 45 rpm record player as a hand-me-down from a cousin when she purchased a newer model. Brother Boomer took over from there and on a family shopping outing a short time later, their first record purchase was made. Brother Boomer picked up a package of a dozen records for 99¢. The one that was visible in the package’s clear window was She’s A Woman by The Beatles. Having seen The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, his parents agreed to buy the package to start the family record collection. Naturally, the only popular record in the package was The Beatles’ single, but Mister B still has several of the obscure others in his 45 collection anyway.

The 1960s saw an explosion of 33 1/3 LPs released, while 45 rpms were made available as a way to spur sales of the longer playing records. Once stereo was introduced on LPs and later, radio, 45s adopted stereophonic sound, too. FM radio embraced the LP with Album-Oriented Rock (AOR) programming. Stations could promote playing a full LP side without commercial interruption. By the 1970s, all singles were released in stereo, the same as LPs.

What were your first experiences with 45 rpm records like, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Music,Pop Culture History and have Comments Off on Boomers Helped to Shape the Record Industry — Literally

Boomer Influences Who Have Passed in 2015

Each of the people mentioned here, some boomers and some not, affected boomers in different ways, with each leaving their own mark on our generation and culture. Like every boomer, Mister Boomer had a front row seat when they rocketed onto the scene, forever finding a place in our shared memories.

Rod Taylor (January 11, 1930 – January 7, 2015)
Australian actor Rod Taylor first appeared in U.S. films in the 1950s, working his way up from supporting roles to starring as a leading man. He appeared in more than 50 films, but a few are particularly memorable for boomers: The Time Machine (1960); The Birds (1963); as well as the love interest for Jane Fonda in Sunday in New York (1963). He worked his way up from supporting roles in the 1950s to starring as a leading man. Mister B recalls seeing him in many films, most notably when he went to a Saturday matinee with Brother Boomer and his cousin, who lived in a neighboring city, to see The Time Machine. The notion of time travel was an attractive idea for a young boomer. A few years later Mister B picked up the H.G. Wells book, having been introduced to it through Rod Taylor’s portrayal.

Donna Douglas (September 26, 1932 – January 1, 2015)
Gary Owens (May 10, 1934 – February 12, 2015)
Leslie Gore (May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015)
Leonard Nimoy (March 26, 1931 –  February 26, 2015)
Mister B felt compelled to write about these amazing individuals when they died at the beginning of the year. Truly they were all well known to boomers as TV and music stars. Here is a link to Mister B’s earlier post: Boomers Say Good-Bye to More Beloved Figures

Jimmy Greenspoon (February 7, 1948 – March 11, 2015)
Cory Wells (February 5, 1941 – October 20, 2015)
Jimmy Greenspoon and Cory Wells, members of Three Dog Night, both left us in 2015. The group had 21 consecutive Top 40 hits from late ’60s to mid ’70s. Greenspoon, a boomer himself, was a keyboard player and Wells was of three lead singers/guitarists in the band, something that made them stand out from many other bands. Mister Boomer wasn’t a big fan of the group, especially disliking Joy to the World (aka Jeremiah was a Bullfrog, released as a single in 1971), but did like Mama Told Me (Not to Come), a 1970 cover version of the song that was written by Randy Newman for Eric Burdon’s first solo album in 1966.

Gary Dahl (December 18, 1936 – March 23, 2015)
A copywriter turned entrepreneur by trade, Gary Dahl will be forever remembered by boomers as the inventor of the Pet Rock. His idea was said to be a joke, but when he found investors the idea became reality in time for Christmas shopping in 1975. The genius of Dahl was not in buying river rocks at pennies per pound and selling them for $3.95, but in the packaging: each rock came nestled on a bed of excelsior, surrounded by a cardboard box, complete with a handle and “air holes.” He sold millions of them to boomers and the children of early boomers. Later, Dahl was the book author of Advertising for Dummies. Mister Boomer did not own a Pet Rock, nor did his siblings or his friends, as far as he knows.

Cynthia Lennon (September 10, 1939 – April 1, 2015)
Cynthia Powell was the first wife of John Lennon and mother of Julian Lennon. The couple were married in 1963 when she was pregnant with son Julian. When The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in February of 1964, the camera “introduced” each band member, isolating them in profile. When John was pictured, “Sorry girls, he’s married” was placed below his name on screen. They were divorced in 1968 after John left her for Yoko Ono. Cynthia was the only wife who had her own fan club. Mister Boomer recalls early photos of her because she was always smartly dressed in groovy ’60s outfits.

Percy Sledge (November 25, 1940 – April 14, 2015)
A singer for the ages, Percy’s When a Man Loves a Woman became a no. 1 hit in 1966. When he died last April, Mister Boomer wrote: “…every now and then a song comes around that so describes its genre that it is forever identified with it as a quintessential example. This song … fits the bill. A slow dance tune for boomers, it is equally enjoyed across generations for its melodic tone and powerful lyrics.”

Jack Ely (September 11, 1943 – April 28, 2015)
Ben E. King (September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015)
Jack Ely was THE singer on the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie record in 1963.
Ben E. King was lead singer for The Drifters. He lent his voice to the boomer classics Save the Last Dance for Me (1960), This Magic Moment (1960), Spanish Harlem (1960) and perhaps his best known song, Stand by Me (1961), which he co-wrote with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Drifters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Read more from Mister Boomer on these two unforgettable singers form an earlier post: Two More Boomer Icons Leave Us With Our Memories

Stan Freberg (August 7, 1926 – April 7, 2015)
Comic, satirist, radio personality, author, actor and voice actor, Stan Freberg is probably remembered in many different ways by boomers due to the depth of his presence from the 1950s all the way through the 2000s. Some recall his comedy records from the 1950s, including The Night Before Christmas/Nuttin’ for Christmas or his political parodies; others will recall his TV puppet show, Time for Beany (1950-53); others remember his voiceover work in animated cartoons for Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, including Lady and the Tramp (1955); still others will recall he played Deputy Sheriff in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Mister Boomer remembers most if not all of Freberg’s work, but he was most fond of his TV commercials. Having formed an ad agency in the 1960s, he was one of the first to try to inject humor into the TV ad game. For that he has been called  the “Father of Funny Advertising.” His commercials are now legendary, including some of Mister B’s favorites: A Jeno’s Pizza Rolls commercial that parodied a Lark cigarettes’ commercial use of the William Tell Overture that culminates with the Lone Ranger and Tonto eating pizza rolls; politically incorrect Chun King Chow Mein commercials and a campaign for prunes that tried to change people’s minds about eating them. One of the most memorable had very British actor Ronald Long saying, “They’re still rather badly wrinkled, you know.”

B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)
The “King of the Blues” had serious influence on rock guitarists throughout boomer era.  Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan are among the rock and blues guitarists to credit King as an influence in their styles and careers. B.B. King began recording in 1949, and had multiple hits in every decade of the fifties, sixties and seventies, including one of Mister B’s favorites, The Thrill is Gone (1971).

Christopher Lee (May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015)
Mister Boomer reported on Christopher Lee’s death back in June: Boomer-Era Villain Christopher Lee Dies

Patrick Macnee (February 6, 1922 – June 25, 2015)
An accomplished actor in both film and on television, Patrick Macnee is best known to boomers as John Steed in The Avengers TV show (1961-69 in England; 1965-68 in the U.S.) The U.S. version of the British show had him playing Mrs. Emma Peel’s (Diana Rigg) suave, British gentleman supervisor in the spy-fi show. Always pictured with a bowler hat and umbrella, Steed was the antithesis of the overtly physical James Bond — yet just as effective.

Omar Sharif (April 10, 1932 – July 10, 2015)
Appearing in dozens of movies during the boomer era, Omar Sharif got boomers’ attention in a big way in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Funny Girl (1968). His foreign “good looks” made him a favorite of many boomer girls — and their moms. Mister Boomer’s mom made remarks about only two actors back then: Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif. Such was the attraction of this Egyptian-born actor. Nominated for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif did not win an Oscar, but did take home a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor in Lawrence of Arabia and another Golden Globe as Best Actor in Doctor Zhivago.

Judy Carne (April 27, 1939 – September 3, 2015)
A dancer, comedian and actor, Judy Carne was best known as the Sock-It-To-Me girl in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-73). She was married to Burt Reynolds from 1963-65, then to producer Robert Bergmann from 1970-71. Read some of Mister B’s remembrances of Judy Carne in his exploration of Laugh-In phrases: Want a Walnetto? You Bet Your Sweet Bippy!

Yvonne Craig May 16, 1937 – August 17, 2015
Yvonne Craig was an American ballet dancer and actress who first caught boomers’ attention when she was dating Elvis Presley in the early sixties. With a little help from the King she landed a supporting role in two Elvis movies: It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). It was, however, her role as Batgirl — whose true identity was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter — in the Batman television series (1966) that forever cemented her into the minds of boomers. By the time she appeared as Marta, an Orion slave girl who danced her way into Captain Kirk’s heart in the Star Trek episode, Whom Gods Destroy (1969), boomers knew it was Yvonne under that green make-up. She also made an appearance on The Six Million Dollar Man (1974).

Warren Mitchell (January 14, 1926 – November 14, 2015)
Mostly an obscure actor by face to boomers, Warren Mitchell appeared in extremely influential film and TV shows during the boomer era. Some boomers will recall he played the character Abdul in The Beatles’ film, Help! (1965). Perhaps due even more to boomer influences, he created the character of Alf Garnett in the British TV series, Till Death Do Us Part (1966-75), which TV aficionados will know became the inspiration for the Archie Bunker character in All In the Family (1971-79).

Meadowlark Lemon (April 25, 1932 – December 27, 2015)
George Meadowlark Lemon  was known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” when he played for the Harlem Globetrotters (1955-83, then toured with them again in 1994). Can anyone ever hear Sweet Georgia Brown without thinking of Meadowlark’s antics on the court? After retiring from the Globetrotters, he became an ordained minister in 1986. Mister Boomer saw the Harlem Globetrotters as a teen. Meadowlark Lemon performed all the tricks he was known for: amazing shots, antagonizing the referee and of course, pretending to toss a bucket of water on the ref — with the audience directly behind him — but the bucket was instead filled with confetti. A true entertainer, Wilt Chamberlain once named him as the greatest basketball player who ever lived.

Natalie Cole (February 6, 1950 – December 31, 2015)
The boomer daughter of Nat King Cole, she was forever in the shadow of the man who lent his voice to The Christmas Song. She began her music career in the 1960s and was immediately compared to Aretha Franklin for her powerful voice. She had a string of hits in the seventies, especially This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) (1975). In 1991, she grabbed the technology of the day and sang a duet with her long-passed father in what was then a groundbreaking video event. By splicing in film from her father and adding her own vocal performance to the song, Unforgettable became her biggest hit.

Of course, there were many more memorable people — boomers and boomer influencers — who left our realm in the 2015. We could not have become the people and generation we are without them.

On a personal note, Mister Boomer lost a friend over the holiday weekend. He was a consummate boomer, having experienced events of the era first-hand. Michael, your wit, humor and encyclopedic knowledge in so many fields is already greatly missed.

posted by Mister B in Pop Culture History and have Comments (2)

Twister Made Boomers Twist & Shout

It happened this past week: The National Toy Hall of Fame inducted another boomer toy — Twister — into its ranks. The Hall was established in 1998 by Ed Sobey and originally resided at A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village in Salem, Oregon. When it had outgrown its surroundings in 2002, the Hall was moved to the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

The Hall was established to recognize toys that had staying power beyond fads and trends to establish themselves as icons that cultivated learning, creativity and discovery through innovative play or design. A look at the inductees over the past decade and a half reveals many Boomer Era favorites, including Etch A Sketch, Barbie, Play Doh and many more.

Now Twister joins the illustrious ranks. Twister was conceived in 1964 by Reyn Guyer as a promotional item for Johnson’s Shoe Polish, a client of his father’s design company, Reynolds Guyer Agency of Design. He called his game Pretzel. When salesman Charles Foley called on the purchasing agent of the company, he saw a model of the game displayed. Foley approached Guyer, telling him he had some connections in the toy business and thought his game might be viable in the marketplace. With funding from his father, Guyer started a toy division with Foley and another man, Neil Rabens.

The three men worked out the now-familiar mat design of colored circles arranged in rows, with each row having the same color, and added hands to the original feet-only-placement game play. It was simple enough for people of any age to play: a spinner card was printed with color blocks of red, yellow, blue and green repeated four times, with each of the quadrants assigned to the left foot, right hand, right foot and right hand. So, a spin could result in the spinner card arrow pointing to “right foot, green,” for example. The player would then have to find a green colored circle on the mat to place his or her right foot. When a player touched a knee to the floor or fell, he or she was eliminated; the last person remaining on the mat was the winner. The game was designed for two or more players.

In 1964, the men submitted Pretzel to the Milton Bradley toy company which saw merit in the game and agreed to produce it. However, when Milton Bradley discovered the name was already trademarked the name was changed to Twister, much to the chagrin of Reyn Guyer.

The game was not well received in its early days. In 1965 Sears Roebuck told Milton Bradley they would not sell it in their stores because toy competitors had labelled it “sex in a box,” referring to the potential of co-ed play with overlapping body parts. Milton Bradley was reconsidering whether there was a future for the game when a P.R. firm got word of it to Johnny Carson in 1966, and arranged for Eva Gabor to play a game of Twister on air with The Tonight Show talk show host. That TV appearance invigorated sales and Foley and Rabens submitted it for a patent that same year.

For many boomers, Twister was a family game. As early TV commercials suggested, children, parents and grandparents could participate in the fun. For teenage boomers, Twister became a party game — a chance to interact with the opposite sex while listening to increasingly popular rock ‘n roll 45 RPM records in many a suburban basement. In Mister Boomer’s household, both were true.

His younger sister was the gamester in the family. She had all the popular games of the day — including other Hall inductees Candy Land and The Game of Life — so when Twister hit the scene, she wanted that one, too. As with all “major” toy purchases, her games were acquired by way of birthday or Christmas gifts. She’d enlist Mister B and his father in the game. His mother rarely participated, and Brother Boomer, a high school teenager, was hardly ever home. The mat, once spread out on the living room floor, took up all of the space between the couch and TV.

Mister B didn’t find the game all that interesting, but then his brother told him teens were playing it at parties. Brother Boomer went to many parties, carting his collection of 45s with him. Those 45s, marked with his name so if they got mixed on the turntable stack, he’d be able to retrieve which were his, are now in Mister B’s possession. The Twister game, however, did not survive the years.

How about you, boomers? Was Twister a family game for you, or a “sex in a box” teen party game?

posted by Mister B in Fun,Pop Culture History,Toys and have Comment (1)

Boomers Watched Things Come and Go

In 1965 Barry McGuire sang Eve of Destruction, which in the Cold War era, put voice to the feeling that should we engage in a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union, it would amount to virtual annihilation of the human species — a self-extinction.

Four years later, Zager and Evans sang about the future in more evolutionary terms with In the Year 2525. In both cases, though, the songs end with the extinction of the human species.

While some may say we’ve been living on the eve of destruction ever since the 1960s, we’re still here as a species, and still doing our best to change our way of life with technological marvels barely dreamed of fifty years ago.

Mister Boomer has noted many of the changes that have cropped up during Boomer Generation days in previous posts, but equally telling are the things that have disappeared during our reign. Like modern day dinosaurs, we’ve borne witness to the extinction of many things that were once commonplace, such as:

Telephones with Dials
The princess telephone was revealed in 1959, but it was 1963 before touch-tone dialing was available. That began the march to replace the dial phone with push-button versions; dials ruled the roost for decades earlier. Other than nostalgia and vintage models, the transformation was complete as no company has regularly produced dial phones since the 1980s. The push-button is now on the endangered list itself as touch-screen dialing is replacing it.

Televisions with Dials
In the late 1990s, Mister B took his portable TV in for repair. “Oh, wow!” remarked the repairman, “Channel dials!” Mister B’s TV was only a decade old at that point, but the 1990s saw an explosion of TVs with remotes, and the migration away from dials to buttons, then to nothing to change channels on the unit at all. Boomers recall that when they were young, there were no remote controls to change channels on TVs. In fact, many boomers will tell you that their parents used them as the channel changer. Now remotes are standard operating equipment, and are, in fact, necessary to operate the unit.

8 Tracks
Mister Boomer has discussed 8 track technology and the boomer connection before (8-Track Mind), but it is an obvious representation of something that didn’t exist before boomers were born, that disappeared completely when we were adults. Many boomers switched to cassette tapes, which are getting all but impossible to find now, and/or to CDs, which are also on the endangered list, as music streaming makes headway. Vinyl is making a bit of a comeback, but does anyone really think it will be the king of recorded music that it once was?

Phone Booths with Doors
No, not the Jim Morrison kind, we’re talking about a phone booth you could walk into and close a door behind you. They were getting rare in the 1980s, as kiosk-style phone booths replaced the full booth models. By the 1990s they were a rare sight on the American landscape. Mister Boomer holds a special nostalgic place in his heart for the indoor wooden phone booths that were in office buildings, restaurants, hotels and many more places. A good portion of these beautifully crafted booths were engineered in the 1930s and ’40s, and remained in service through the 1980s. They had a wooden bench and, when you grabbed the door handle and pulled it shut, a light went on inside the booth, creating an instant film noir scene to those watching from outside. Now, the only place you can see this type of booth is in old movies. The pay phone inside phone booths is also on the endangered list these days, as the proliferation of personal cellphones is making the need for pay phones obsolete.

Oral Thermometers with Mercury or Red-Dyed Alcohol
When boomers were young, our mothers or doctors would take our temperature with a thermometer design that was, at the time, already decades old. It was a glass tube tipped with metal at one end and filled with an alcohol-based red liquid, though some boomers will recall the silver mercury types. When the metal ending was placed under the tongue, the change in temperature was registered, over the course of a minute or two, by the markings on the glass tube. The thermometer was sterilized with alcohol after each use. Today digital thermometers have all but eliminated the mercury-tubed models. Digital versions can be aimed into a child’s ear and a temperature taken with a click of a button, producing an instant readout.

Refrigerator Freezers that Require Defrosting
Mister Boomer recalls seeing an episode of I Love Lucy where Ethel (or was it Trixie?) removes a bowling ball from the oven and places it in her refrigerator’s freezer. Mister Boomer’s mom had a similar tack in that she boiled pans of water, then placed them into the freezer. It was necessary to defrost the refrigerator’s freezer from time to time to remove the layers of ice that had accumulated on the walls. Mister B and Brother Boomer were often enlisted to help pry away the chunks of ice from the freezer walls, which they promptly smashed into the kitchen sink. Most freezers now have a defrosting feature that eliminates the need for the hand defrosting methods of our boomer years. As time goes on, freezer technology is improving to the point that ice no longer builds up on the walls, so the day may soon come when defrosting a freezer will be a thing of the past.

Vacuum Tubes
Before the age of transistors, TVs and radios operated with vacuum tubes. The tubes needed replacing from time to time, and in most cases, was an easy do-it-yourself fix with replacement tubes purchased at the local drug store. The incandescent light bulb is another vacuum tube on the way out. Boomers recall taking burned out bulbs back to the Con Edison store for free replacement bulbs, and now, various types of LED and CFL bulbs are slowly but surely replacing the incandescent glass vacuum bulb model. In 2012 the U.S. and other countries passed bans on inefficient and environment-harming incandescent light bulbs, with a phase-out planned. Congress has since defunded all efforts to eliminate the incandescent bulb, but the industry has retooled and moved toward newer models, sealing the fate of the incandescent bulb.

Ignition Points Inside Car Distributor Caps
The continuing technological revolution in car engines has eliminated the need for hand-calibrating of points inside a distributor cap. Most boomer boys will recall the little metal tool they used for such a procedure. It was like a Swiss Army knife in that multiple small shafts of metal were housed in a single case. Each shaft was a different width, and each was labelled. Once the car’s engine specifications were known, the proper point gap could be made by loosening a screw in the distributor cap, placing the proper measuring tool between the ignition points to gain the correct gap, and tightening the screw.

There are many more items that boomers will recall were commonplace in our day, and many more still that are now in danger of disappearing. What items that are now extinct make your list, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Pop Culture History,Technology and have Comment (1)